Saturday, November 13, 2010
JazzNote Radio 2: Thelonious Monk
Jazz Note Radio 2 will go online at 10pm Central Time tonight. As I start this post, that's about thirty minutes from now. The first three hour show will disappear and a three hour program of Thelonious Monk's music will replace it. I will make the old shows available in some form, probably as a podcast. Right now I am trying to figure out Live365 and the dos and don'ts of legal online radio.
I will provide a playlist (in order this time) tomorrow, but for now I will say a little bit about Monk and the music on the new show. It is one of God's jokes that Monk's middle name was "Sphere". No one in the history of jazz was less spherical and more angular than Monk, as a composer or piano player. Certainly no working jazz musician left a body of compositions that had more lasting influence.
Whether leading his band or playing alongside other big names, Monk rarely recorded anything but Monk. Listening to him for hours at a time, the music never gets old. Monk's work, if not Monk himself, straddles three crucial movements in modern jazz. He was present at the creation of bebop as one of the founding fathers of that Music. Most of his recording comes during the hard bop period, and it was in that period that he finally achieved the fame he so richly deserved.
Monk himself never ventured into avant garde jazz and this is worth commenting on. Monk's genius lay principally in his ability to strip down music to its constituent parts and then rebuild it. Some critics have commented that he almost labels the parts, especially when he is playing jazz standards. But there is nothing abstract in Monk's playing or composing. His greatest composition, 'Round Midnight', is so concrete you can almost hear the footsteps on wet pavement. If Monk didn't do avant garde, avant garde surely did Monk. Many of the great musicians of that movement were members of the cult of Monk.
About half of this week's show consists of Monk recording either as leader or alongside greats like Coltrane, Rollins, and Gerry Mulligan. The rest consists of Monk covers by Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, John Stetch, Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, Cecil Taylor, and Anthony Braxton. The only Monk composition I repeat is 'Round Midnight,' and you get that one three times.
A special treat comes at the end. Avant garde piano master Alexander Von Schlippenbach did something no one else has done, to my knowledge. He recorded all of Monk's compositions in a three cd set. That required a lot of squeezing, and there are moments when it reminds one of the Reduced Shakespeare jokes that you can hear on the web. It is a treasure, and I provide three cuts from that box set.
If you are listening to Jazz Note Radio, you will hear a lot of Monk this week. Starting next week I will probably add about an hour a week until I fill up my locker. I estimate I will have about 9 hours of music to listen through eventually. New shows will start on Saturday night.
Thanks for listening and reading. Drop me a line.